My deeply sardonic sense of humour doesn’t always sit well with my genuine, puppy-like, idealistic enthusiasm. I’m prone to poking holes in my own polemic. For example, this paragraph is really pretentious. Sorry.

So I’m sensitive to contradiction and conceptual tensions. Case in point: I’ve been getting very enthusiastic about agile, loving the new manual from GDS (see previous post), and its a brave new world. Permanent revolution. Marx wasn’t wrong about everything. Change, change, change, we don’t need your stinkin’ samey samey...

Yet I passionately believe in the power of standards. Pretty stupid to work for a chartered institute if you don’t. I think CITP is earth-shatteringly important and SFIA is incredibly useful.

Is this a contradiction? No, it really isn’t. The issue isn’t the tools, it is how you use them. Standards can constrict and stifle growth and innovation. They are often used to define the ceiling, not the floor. Change can be destructive and stupid. Every generation is in danger of repeating the mistakes of the last one rather than learning from the previous one (and instead making new, interesting mistakes).

So these are not a contradiction, they are something to be treated properly and to an extent held in tension. Take a look at the ‘Professional competence and integrity’ section of the BCS code of conduct that applies to all members:

  1. only undertake to do work or provide a service that is within your professional competence.
  2. NOT claim any level of competence that you do not possess.
  3. develop your professional knowledge, skills and competence on a continuing basis, maintaining awareness of technological developments, procedures, and standards that are relevant to your field.
  4. ensure that you have the knowledge and understanding of Legislation* and that you comply with such Legislation, in carrying out your professional responsibilities.
  5. respect and value alternative viewpoints and, seek, accept and offer honest criticisms of work.
  6. avoid injuring others, their property, reputation, or employment by false or malicious or negligent action or inaction.
  7. reject and will not make any offer of bribery or unethical inducement.

This incorporates permanent revolution - we are in a changing environment and you need to keep up. Know the standards, but build on them. In-built to our charter is the concept of continually advancing knowledge in our domain, turning that good practice into shared common practice. Tools like SFIA are a useful map for conversations taking place over an incredibly broad landscape, and the tools themselves need to constantly change. I was really taken by the recent guest blog post by Adrian Norman to mark the passing of Lady Thatcher, reflecting on government IT policy in 1979 (when I was four years old). Some things change, some things stay the same.

It isn’t complicated; a professional should know about good practice and the law, and ethics, but as a foundation. A professional should build on that foundation and better it. There is nothing wrong with being better than good practice, or more ethical than the law requires, but there is nothing clever about ignorance.

There you go, a blog posting containing Marxism and Thatcherism. Not at all pretentious...